Ryan Bailey story, circa 2007

Ryan Bailey (Robert Rosenberg Photography)

 

I wasn’t able to find the link on Oregonlive.com, but this is the two-part story I wrote about Ryan Bailey as he was coming out of high school in Salem and beginning to make some noise as a sprinter. He’s been through a lot and the five years since this story was published have more to do with his current status as a United States Olympian than this snapshot of him as a promising but very raw 18-year-old. This story was printed in The Oregonian newspaper in the early summer of 2007.

Part 1

By: Doug Binder

Ryan Bailey took the stack of neatly folded garments, 32 individual pieces in all, and walked into a dressing room.  The 18-year-old from Salem was asked to try on the clothes in case he was selected to join the U.S. junior track and field team for its July trip to the Pan Am Junior Athletics Championships in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

To Bailey, a sprinter from Salem who became the fastest prep in Oregon history this spring, the idea that he could represent the U.S.seemed like something out of a dream. He had overcome broken bones and,later, an expulsion from school in 2005, an attack where he incurred three stab wounds in 2006, and then a sometimes rocky senior year at McKay High School.

If not for the support of John Parks, a social studies teacher at McKay High School, he may have drifted into obscurity, or worse.  “If it wasn’t for him I’d probably be expelled, out of school, doing who knows what,” Bailey said. “I’d be most likely in jail.”
Bailey pulled the elastic fabric of the body suit up over his waist and pulled straps over his muscular shoulders, filling the uniform with his 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame. He admired his own reflection in a mirror.

“When I put it on I felt chills,” Bailey said. “I didn’t want to take it off.”  Wearing the letters U-S-A across his chest, Bailey walked out of the dressing room to meet Parks.  At that point, there was no guarantee that he would be chosen to the team.  So Parks, his coach and mentor, pulled out a camera, the way a father would, and snapped a picture to save the proud moment.  Two days later, Bailey was selected to join the U.S. team and help the team on the 4×100 and 4×400 relays.

Debra Galban always held firm to her belief that Ryan, her son, would become a star, although in her mind she saw him carrying a football. She simply had no doubt.
She envisioned someday doing Campbell’s Chunky Soup
commercials with him some day, like NFL stars Terrell Davis and Donovan
McNabb did with their moms.
“I knew it by the time he was in kindergarten,” Galban said.
“I knew he’d go to college on a full-ride scholarship. He was like a
streak of lightning.”
The chances of Bailey ever getting to college, however, seemed
remote until the last six months. One setback after another kept him
from realizing his athletic potential at McKay and his star-crossed
athletic career seemed in jeopardy once again early this spring, when a
hamstring injury delayed the start of his final high school track
season.
In Bailey’s corner was Parks, a 45-year-old teacher and coach
from Alabama who had faced his own setbacks. Parks was fired as
McKay’s track and cross country coach for fudging some entry list
marks at an invitational meet in 2006.
Parks’ credibility was damaged and his reputation was sullied
by the firing, but it also opened up an opportunity. He wanted to try
and nurture an athlete he knew could be very special.
“I kept seeing the good parts of Ryan,” Parks said. “He
needed a lot of molding and to gain a lot of maturity.”
The good parts include a naturally charismatic personality and a
friendly smile beneath a wisp of a black mustache.
And then there was the raw physical talent, the likes of which
are practically unprecedented in Oregon high schools.
He has run 10.45 seconds for 100 meters and 21.11 for 200. Those
are both all-time state bests.
Parks’ assessment is that Bailey can beome an Olympic-level
track athlete.
“I think without a doubt he can be a world class hurdler if
he’s 100 percent dedicated to it,” Parks said.
Parks has the background to know what he’s talking about.
As a track and field junkie who served as a team manager while
attending Auburn and later served as an assistant coach there, Parks is
well-connected in the sport.
And with Bailey, Parks felt he was uniquely suited to the job of
guiding an emotionally and aca
demically troubled kid to a place where he
had confidence and an understanding of how to succeed.
“I do understand African-American culture,” said Parks, who
gives impassioned lectures on civil rights in his classes. “My
background (in Alabama) helped me. My friends there were black. I’ve
dealt with lots of kids who don’t come from structrured families.”

Ryan Bailey, born in Portland on April 13, 1989, was the product
of an affair between his mother, who was not married at the time, and
Robert Bailey, who was.
“That makes me an accident,” Bailey said with a wry smile.
“It bothered me more when I was younger.”
On his father’s side were some extraordinary athletic genes. A
half brother, Walter Bailey, was a standout three-sport athlete at
Benson who played cornerback on Washington’s 1991 national
championship football team.
By the age of 10, Walter had become a hero to Ryan, who dreamed
of a future in the NFL. But for the most part, Ryan said he felt closed
off from the Baileys.
Robert Bailey, who lives in Portland, maintains that he cares
about Ryan and is deeply concerned for his future.
“I keep tabs more than they think I do,” Bailey said.
Ryan’s parents blame each other for gaps, or lapses, in
parenting. He has grown up with his mother, existing on the margins of
poverty and acceptance in locales across Oregon.
The youngest of Debra’s eight children by seven years, Ryan
said he never had a consistent father figure until Parks came along.
Debra married her second husband when Ryan was seven, but his
stepfather went to prison soon after on a felony sex charge that
involved a non-family member.
Debra moved, with her young son, in order to stay close to her
husband.
They lived in Sandy. In Wilsonville. In Pendleton. In Ontario.
Back to Sandy. Then Milwaukie. For the past three years, it’s been
Salem.
Debra said she is currently separated from her husband.
All of the moving made it difficult for Ryan to gain traction in
school. His ceaseless energy and lack of control made him a frequent
disruption in class. He was eventually diagnosed with Attention
Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). But his mother wouldn’t allow
Ryan to take drugs such Ritalin, believing them to be harmful.
In Ontario, during middle school, Ryan demonstrated some of his
athletic talent in Hershey youth track and field meets. He even met
Sheryl Page, another budding talent dealing with her own conditions of
poverty, who later became a state champion and has been profiled in The
Oregonian.
“I can remember meets where she and I were the only ones (from
Ontario) who got first,” Ryan said.
Ryan’s focus on sports blurred because he lacked the patience
and discipline to succeed in a team framework.
He got into fights in several schools and gravitated toward
other kids that weren’t interested in going to class.
Ryan recalls his role in various fistfights growing up with
vivid details.
As a freshman at Sandy High, Ryan said, he was pinned to the
ground and kicked by a group of assailants. He remembers watching a boot
sweep past his nose, missing by half an inch.
By the time he was a sophomore in his first year at McKay he was
affiliated with a gang.
“I was a bad kid,” Ryan admitted. “Any smart remark or
anyone who looked at me wrong .¤.¤. I was mad at the world for some
reason.”
Debra and Ryan continue to live lean. They don’t have a
working car and do most of their getting around by asking for rides, or
taking the bus. They live in a two-bedroom apartment in north Salem,
close to the Portland Boulevard exit off of Interstate 5.
Debra, who suffers from fibromyalgia and other ailments,
collects a fixed income of $1,024 per month Social Security disability
check, plus food stamp benefits.
Through it all, Ryan said he has never gone hungry and always
had a roof over his head.
“We always had food to eat,” he said. “Maybe at the end of
the month we didn’t have much. But we
always had something.”

His sophomore year, Ryan stood in a hallway at McKay, looking up
at board listing the school records in track, and boasting to a friend
that he could take them down.
“I was talking to one of my friends after school,” Ryan
said, recalling the spring of his sophomore year. “I was talking like
‘These records are weak’ and ‘I can get these.’¤”
Little did Ryan know he was staring up at the name Gus Envela,
Oregon’s most decorated high school sprinter. And the numbers on the
board were not only school records, some of them were state records as
well.
Parks happened to be walking down the hall and overheard the
conversation.
“What’s your name?” Parks asked, sizing up Bailey for the
first time. “Why don’t you come out to practice and we’ll see if
you can break those records?”
Ryan blew off the invitation.
Over the next week, Parks approached Bailey again about coming
to track practice.
“Go away,” Ryan remembers thinking.
At the time, Ryan only cared about football.
But one day after class, Ryan finally came to the track and
Parks caught a glimpse of his talent. Ryan ran one lap, 400 meters,
wearing baggy jeans and basketball shoes. Ryan recalled the time on
Parks’ stopwatch: 52.7 seconds.
Parks tried his pitch: “You’re so smooth. Smooth as
glass,” he remembered saying. “I wanted to give him some praise
and show him some interest.”
Parks convinced Bailey to join the team. He pulled out selected
video tapes from his large collection, showing him races from the World
Championships and Olympics.
“I said ‘If you want to do this, this is what’s out
there,’¤” Parks said.
Bailey didn’t have money for track spikes so for the first
meet of the season, Parks loaned him a pair that was one size too small.
Running at a meet at Mt. Hood Community College, Bailey leapt from the
blocks and broke a toe.
“I took two steps and my (left) toe popped,” Bailey said.
“I tried to keep running on it.”
Parks stayed connected to the team even when he couldn’t run.
He ran again later in the season, and the first time he raced –
wearing shoes that fit correctly – he broke a toe on his other foot.
“The thing that helped him get through that was he saw that I
cared about him,” Parks said. “I would set him straight when he
screwed up. Ryan will test the limits. But he bought in pretty quick.”

Bailey yearned to be successful at something but couldn’t seem
to get out of his own way.
In the fall of his junior year, Bailey was in his fifth fight
and this one got him expelled.
Bailey said he was goaded into the fight, and rather than back
down he agreed to meet the boy in a park near McKay and duke it out.
Bailey said it was a one-sided affair, with his opponent taking
the worst of the beating. Word quickly spread back to school officials
and Bailey faced an expulsion hearing.
It was there, he said, that the gravity of his situation began
to hit him.
“My mom and dad were both there,” Ryan said. “I could see
how disappointed they were. It made me feel bad. After I got expelled, I
started trying to leave gangs alone.”
Bailey claims that meant leaving the gang by allowing himself to
be “jumped out.” Seven members of the gang surrounded him, beat him
onto the ground, and kicked him until they had their fill.
Bailey served out the expulsion period by attending Barbara
Roberts High School, an alternative school, in Salem.
“From being an educator the last 28 years, I can tell you who
the really, really tough kids are,” McKay principal Cynthia Richardson
said. “Ryan is not a hardcore kid.”
Bailey was back at McKay, and primed for a breakout track
season, in the spring of 2006. He ran some of the fastest times in the
state in 100 and 200 before another setback hit.
Riding a bus to school one morning, he got into a verbal
confrontation with an aquaintance from Barbara Roberts. Bailey knew he
couldn’t afford ano
ther fight and so he tried to button his lip, get
up, and walk away.
He said the three blows felt like punches coming from behind
him. It was a small pocket knife plunging twice into the back of his
right shoulder and once in the top of the shoulder.
Bailey walked off the bus and heard people yelling that he’d
been stabbed. He took off his shirt and saw the blood running down his
arm.
The attack sidelined Bailey for three weeks. He came back in
time to qualify for state in the long jump, but the next day on the
anchor leg of the 4×100 relay he he strained a muscle in his hip. The
injury prevented him from competing at the state meet.

A back injury prevented Bailey from playing more than a few
football games for McKay last fall.
Parks, who was acting as Bailey’s advisor, also started
plotting out the upcoming track season.
Parks took Bailey to six indoor meets between January and March,
culminating with the National Scholastic Indoor Championships meet in
New York City.
Bailey ran one of the fastest indoor times in the nation in the
200 on Feb. 12 in Seattle, 21.40 seconds.
He was injured in the finals of the New York meet on March 11.
But not before he visited Times Square and took an elevator to the top
of the Empire State Building.
As the outdoor track season began this spring, Parks split his
time between an assistant coaching position at Stayton and remaining
connected to Bailey as a personal coach.
Parks has spent thousands of dollars out of pocket to keep
Bailey moving forward – from chiropractic care, massage therapy,
shoes, groceries and travel costs.
“I truly believe the Lord has selected certain people to cross
other people’s paths, and to help them in a way no other person can
help them,” Richardson, McKay’s principal, said. “It was destiny
for (Parks and Bailey) to meet each other at McKay High School.”

That’s one view.
Another opinion held by some coaches and administrators at McKay
is that Bailey never embraced what it meant to be part of a team. And
that he and Parks operated on their own agenda.
McKay’s new coach, Tom Stricklin, worked to create a
team-first framework.
Bailey bristled at some of the new guidelines, Stricklin said.
At one point, Bailey even quit the team for a couple days.
“He, as any kid, bumps against the boundaries to test them,”
Stricklin said. “We made some exceptions for Ryan. Things will be
different next year.”
Together, everyone got through the season.
Ryan’s combination of size and speed began to take over. He
ran the 200 in 21.31 as last-minute addition the junior varsity race at
a dual meet in Redmond. At the same meet, he took second in the varsity
shot put.
As the district meet approached, Bailey’s nerves were
palpable. He had never qualified for the state meet before. Would
something go wrong this time?
Bailey’s luck changed for the better.
He won the 100, the 200 and anchored McKay to the third-fastest
time in state history in the 4×100 relay with teammates Reese Smith,
Deeric Crockett and Tony Gonzalez.
“It’s crazy. I can’t believe it,” Bailey said, beaming
after his big day at the district finals.
One of the most naturally gifted athletes in state history was
finally going to state.
A week later, at Hayward Field in Eugene, the stage was set for
Bailey to be the biggest star of the OSAA Class 6A meet.
First up was a prelim in the 4×100 relay.
Bailey, running the anchor leg, bounced in the final turn,
loosening up to take the baton and bring it home to the finish line.
But it never got there.
Crockett, a sophomore, sped out of the blocks and handed the
baton to Reese, who glided down the backstretch.
Reese reached the baton out to Gonzalez, who momentarily grabbed
it, and then lost the handle. The baton fell to the ground.
And just like that, McKay, the top seed, was out of contention.

Bailey hung his head as the rest of the anchor legs roared off
to the finish line.
For the next half-hour or so, Bailey sulked, out of sight of his
crushed teammates.

 

Part 2
Ryan Bailey took the stack of neatly folded garments, 32
individual pieces in all, and walked into a dressing room.
The 18-year-old from Salem was asked to try on the clothes in
case he was selected to join the U.S. junior track and field team for
its July trip to the Pan Am Junior Athletics Championships in Sao Paulo,
Brazil.
To Bailey, a sprinter from Salem who became the fastest prep in
Oregon history this spring, the idea that he could represent the U.S.
seemed like something out of a dream. He had overcome broken bones and,
later, an expulsion from school in 2005, an attack where he incurred
three stab wounds in 2006, and then a sometimes rocky senior year at
McKay High School.
If not for the support of John Parks, a social studies teacher
at McKay High School, he may have drifted into obscurity, or worse.
“If it wasn’t for him I’d probably be expelled, out of
school, doing who knows what,” Bailey said. “I’d be most likely in
jail.”
Bailey pulled the elastic fabric of the body suit up over his
waist and pulled straps over his muscular shoulders, filling the uniform
with his 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame. He admired his own reflection in a
mirror.
“When I put it on I felt chills,” Bailey said. “I didn’t
want to take it off.”
Wearing the letters U-S-A across his chest, Bailey walked out of
the dressing room to meet Parks.
At that point, there was no guarantee that he would be chosen to
the team.
So Parks, his coach and mentor, pulled out a camera, the way a
father would, and snapped a picture to save the proud moment.
Two days later, Bailey was selected to join the U.S. team and
help the team on the 4×100 and 4×400 relays.

Debra Galban always held firm to her belief that Ryan would
become a star, although in her mind she saw him carrying a football. She
simply had no doubt.
She envisioned someday doing Campbell’s Chunky Soup
commercials with him some day, like NFL stars Terrell Davis and Donovan
McNabb did with their moms.
“I knew it by the time he was in kindergarten,” Galban said.
“I knew he’d go to college on a full-ride scholarship. He was like a
streak of lightning.”
The chances of Bailey ever getting to college, however, seemed
remote until the last six months. One setback after another kept him
from realizing his athletic potential at McKay and his star-crossed
athletic career seemed in jeopardy once again early this spring, when a
hamstring injury delayed the start of his final high school track
season.
In Bailey’s corner was Parks, a 45-year-old teacher and coach
from Alabama who had faced his own setbacks. Parks was fired as
McKay’s track and cross country coach for fudging some entry list
marks at an invitational meet in 2006.
Parks’ credibility was damaged and his reputation was sullied
by the firing, but it also opened up an opportunity. He wanted to try
and nurture an athlete he knew could be very special.
“I kept seeing the good parts of Ryan,” Parks said. “He
needed a lot of molding and to gain a lot of maturity.”
The good parts include a naturally charismatic personality and a
friendly smile beneath a wisp of a black mustache.
And then there was the raw physical talent, the likes of which
are practically unprecedented in Oregon high schools.
He has run 10.45 seconds for 100 meters and 21.11 for 200. Those
are both all-time state bests.
Parks’ assessment is that Bailey can beome an Olympic-level
track athlete.
“I think without a doubt he can be a world class hurdler if
he’s 100 percent dedicated to it,” Parks said.
Parks has the background to know what he’s talking about.
As a track and field junkie who served as a team manager while
attending Auburn and later served as an assistant coach there, Parks is
well-connected in the sport.
And with Bailey, Parks felt he was uniquely suited to the job of
guiding an emotionally and aca
demically troubled kid to a place where he
had confidence and an understanding of how to succeed.
“I do understand African-American culture,” said Parks, who
gives impassioned lectures on civil rights in his classes. “My
background (in Alabama) helped me. My friends there were black. I’ve
dealt with lots of kids who don’t come from structrured families.”

Ryan Bailey, born in Portland on April 13, 1989, was the product
of an affair between his mother, who was not married at the time, and
Robert Bailey, who was.
“That makes me an accident,” Bailey said with a wry smile.
“It bothered me more when I was younger.”
On his father’s side were some extraordinary athletic genes. A
half brother, Walter Bailey, was a standout three-sport athlete at
Benson who played cornerback on Washington’s 1991 national
championship football team.
By the age of 10, Walter had become a hero to Ryan, who dreamed
of a future in the NFL. But for the most part, Ryan said he felt closed
off from the Baileys.
Robert Bailey, who lives in Portland, maintains that he cares
about Ryan and is deeply concerned for his future.
“I keep tabs more than they think I do,” Bailey said.
Ryan’s parents blame each other for gaps, or lapses, in
parenting. He has grown up with his mother, existing on the margins of
poverty and acceptance in locales across Oregon.
The youngest of Debra’s eight children by seven years, Ryan
said he never had a consistent father figure until Parks came along.
Debra married her second husband when Ryan was seven, but his
stepfather went to prison soon after on a felony sex charge that
involved a non-family member.
Debra moved, with her young son, in order to stay close to her
husband.
They lived in Sandy. In Wilsonville. In Pendleton. In Ontario.
Back to Sandy. Then Milwaukie. For the past three years, it’s been
Salem.
Debra said she is currently separated from her husband.
All of the moving made it difficult for Ryan to gain traction in
school. His ceaseless energy and lack of control made him a frequent
disruption in class. He was eventually diagnosed with Attention
Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). But his mother wouldn’t allow
Ryan to take drugs such Ritalin, believing them to be harmful.
In Ontario, during middle school, Ryan demonstrated some of his
athletic talent in Hershey youth track and field meets. He even met
Sheryl Page, another budding talent dealing with her own conditions of
poverty, who later became a state champion and has been profiled in The
Oregonian.
“I can remember meets where she and I were the only ones (from
Ontario) who got first,” Ryan said.
Ryan’s focus on sports blurred because he lacked the patience
and discipline to succeed in a team framework.
He got into fights in several schools and gravitated toward
other kids that weren’t interested in going to class.
Ryan recalls his role in various fistfights growing up with
vivid details.
As a freshman at Sandy High, Ryan said, he was pinned to the
ground and kicked by a group of assailants. He remembers watching a boot
sweep past his nose, missing by half an inch.
By the time he was a sophomore in his first year at McKay he was
affiliated with a gang.
“I was a bad kid,” Ryan admitted. “Any smart remark or
anyone who looked at me wrong .¤.¤. I was mad at the world for some
reason.”
Debra and Ryan continue to live lean. They don’t have a
working car and do most of their getting around by asking for rides, or
taking the bus. They live in a two-bedroom apartment in north Salem,
close to the Portland Boulevard exit off of Interstate 5.
Debra, who suffers from fibromyalgia and other ailments,
collects a fixed income of $1,024 per month Social Security disability
check, plus food stamp benefits.
Through it all, Ryan said he has never gone hungry and always
had a roof over his head.
“We always had food to eat,” he said. “Maybe at the end of
the month we didn’t have much. But we
always had something.”

His sophomore year, Ryan stood in a hallway at McKay, looking up
at board listing the school records in track, and boasting to a friend
that he could take them down.
“I was talking to one of my friends after school,” Ryan
said, recalling the spring of his sophomore year. “I was talking like
‘These records are weak’ and ‘I can get these.’¤”
Little did Ryan know he was staring up at the name Gus Envela,
Oregon’s most decorated high school sprinter. And the numbers on the
board were not only school records, some of them were state records as
well.
Parks happened to be walking down the hall and overheard the
conversation.
“What’s your name?” Parks asked, sizing up Bailey for the
first time. “Why don’t you come out to practice and we’ll see if
you can break those records?”
Ryan blew off the invitation.
Over the next week, Parks approached Bailey again about coming
to track practice.
“Go away,” Ryan remembers thinking.
At the time, Ryan only cared about football.
But one day after class, Ryan finally came to the track and
Parks caught a glimpse of his talent. Ryan ran one lap, 400 meters,
wearing baggy jeans and basketball shoes. Ryan recalled the time on
Parks’ stopwatch: 52.7 seconds.
Parks tried his pitch: “You’re so smooth. Smooth as
glass,” he remembered saying. “I wanted to give him some praise
and show him some interest.”
Parks convinced Bailey to join the team. He pulled out selected
video tapes from his large collection, showing him races from the World
Championships and Olympics.
“I said ‘If you want to do this, this is what’s out
there,’¤” Parks said.
Bailey didn’t have money for track spikes so for the first
meet of the season, Parks loaned him a pair that was one size too small.
Running at a meet at Mt. Hood Community College, Bailey leapt from the
blocks and broke a toe.
“I took two steps and my (left) toe popped,” Bailey said.
“I tried to keep running on it.”
Parks stayed connected to the team even when he couldn’t run.
He ran again later in the season, and the first time he raced –
wearing shoes that fit correctly – he broke a toe on his other foot.
“The thing that helped him get through that was he saw that I
cared about him,” Parks said. “I would set him straight when he
screwed up. Ryan will test the limits. But he bought in pretty quick.”

Bailey yearned to be successful at something but couldn’t seem
to get out of his own way.
In the fall of his junior year, Bailey was in his fifth fight
and this one got him expelled.
Bailey said he was goaded into the fight, and rather than back
down he agreed to meet the boy in a park near McKay and duke it out.
Bailey said it was a one-sided affair, with his opponent taking
the worst of the beating. Word quickly spread back to school officials
and Bailey faced an expulsion hearing.
It was there, he said, that the gravity of his situation began
to hit him.
“My mom and dad were both there,” Ryan said. “I could see
how disappointed they were. It made me feel bad. After I got expelled, I
started trying to leave gangs alone.”
Bailey claims that meant leaving the gang by allowing himself to
be “jumped out.” Seven members of the gang surrounded him, beat him
onto the ground, and kicked him until they had their fill.
Bailey served out the expulsion period by attending Barbara
Roberts High School, an alternative school, in Salem.
“From being an educator the last 28 years, I can tell you who
the really, really tough kids are,” McKay principal Cynthia Richardson
said. “Ryan is not a hardcore kid.”
Bailey was back at McKay, and primed for a breakout track
season, in the spring of 2006. He ran some of the fastest times in the
state in 100 and 200 before another setback hit.
Riding a bus to school one morning, he got into a verbal
confrontation with an aquaintance from Barbara Roberts. Bailey knew he
couldn’t afford ano
ther fight and so he tried to button his lip, get
up, and walk away.
He said the three blows felt like punches coming from behind
him. It was a small pocket knife plunging twice into the back of his
right shoulder and once in the top of the shoulder.
Bailey walked off the bus and heard people yelling that he’d
been stabbed. He took off his shirt and saw the blood running down his
arm.
The attack sidelined Bailey for three weeks. He came back in
time to qualify for state in the long jump, but the next day on the
anchor leg of the 4×100 relay he he strained a muscle in his hip. The
injury prevented him from competing at the state meet.

A back injury prevented Bailey from playing more than a few
football games for McKay last fall.
Parks, who was acting as Bailey’s advisor, also started
plotting out the upcoming track season.
Parks took Bailey to six indoor meets between January and March,
culminating with the National Scholastic Indoor Championships meet in
New York City.
Bailey ran one of the fastest indoor times in the nation in the
200 on Feb. 12 in Seattle, 21.40 seconds.
He was injured in the finals of the New York meet on March 11.
But not before he visited Times Square and took an elevator to the top
of the Empire State Building.
As the outdoor track season began this spring, Parks split his
time between an assistant coaching position at Stayton and remaining
connected to Bailey as a personal coach.
Parks has spent thousands of dollars out of pocket to keep
Bailey moving forward – from chiropractic care, massage therapy,
shoes, groceries and travel costs.
“I truly believe the Lord has selected certain people to cross
other people’s paths, and to help them in a way no other person can
help them,” Richardson, McKay’s principal, said. “It was destiny
for (Parks and Bailey) to meet each other at McKay High School.”

That’s one view.
Another opinion held by some coaches and administrators at McKay
is that Bailey never embraced what it meant to be part of a team. And
that he and Parks operated on their own agenda.
McKay’s new coach, Tom Stricklin, worked to create a
team-first framework.
Bailey bristled at some of the new guidelines, Stricklin said.
At one point, Bailey even quit the team for a couple days.
“He, as any kid, bumps against the boundaries to test them,”
Stricklin said. “We made some exceptions for Ryan. Things will be
different next year.”
Together, everyone got through the season.
Ryan’s combination of size and speed began to take over. He
ran the 200 in 21.31 as last-minute addition the junior varsity race at
a dual meet in Redmond. At the same meet, he took second in the varsity
shot put.
As the district meet approached, Bailey’s nerves were
palpable. He had never qualified for the state meet before. Would
something go wrong this time?
Bailey’s luck changed for the better.
He won the 100, the 200 and anchored McKay to the third-fastest
time in state history in the 4×100 relay with teammates Reese Smith,
Deeric Crockett and Tony Gonzalez.
“It’s crazy. I can’t believe it,” Bailey said, beaming
after his big day at the district finals.
One of the most naturally gifted athletes in state history was
finally going to state.
A week later, at Hayward Field in Eugene, the stage was set for
Bailey to be the biggest star of the OSAA Class 6A meet.
First up was a prelim in the 4×100 relay.
Bailey, running the anchor leg, bounced in the final turn,
loosening up to take the baton and bring it home to the finish line.
But it never got there.
Crockett, a sophomore, sped out of the blocks and handed the
baton to Reese, who glided down the backstretch.
Reese reached the baton out to Gonzalez, who momentarily grabbed
it, and then lost the handle. The baton fell to the ground.
And just like that, McKay, the top seed, was out of contention.

Bailey hung his head as the rest of the anchor legs roared off
to the finish line.
For the next half-hour or so, Bailey sulked, out of sight of his
crushed teammates.

 

Part 2

By DOUG BINDER
Staff

Without saying a word, Ryan Bailey walked through the
clerk’s circle at Hayward Field and out a gate with
his eyes fixed on the ground.

The McKay High School 4×100 relay team was out of the
state track meet due to a dropped exchange during the
hand-off between Reese Smith and Tony Gonzalez. It was
the first time the team had missed a hand-off all
season.

Bailey, the anchor leg, was mad. Not at his teammates,
necessarily. At the world.

“My heart just sunk,” Bailey said. “It was the maddest
I’ve ever been.”

The McKay senior hoped he could put all of life’s
challenges on hold for three days in Eugene and
finally show what he was capable of.

The dropped baton seemed like a bad omen.

“I knew something was going to happen,” Bailey said.
“My back was tight. I thought I wouldn’t be able to
run. When I saw the baton drop I thought ‘That’s the
start of it.’”

Later, in the stands, McKay principal Cynthia
Richardson tried to cheer up the members of the relay
team.

“I said God still has plans for you. Don not let this
(disappointment) steal your chance. Things happen for
a reason. Maybe it’s to motivate you to a faster time
and level than you can get here,” Richardson said.

Bailey still had the 100 meters and 200 meters on his
plate. The next day, he said the nervousness he felt
to finally get it right were overwhelming. He was
afraid of false-starting and getting disqualified.

“I had butterflies in my stomach times 10. It was like
eagles flying around in there,” Bailey said.

But as soon as the starter’s pistol sounded, Bailey’s
raw natural ability took over. He breezed through the
prelims of the 100 and 200 without a hitch.

Richardson personally drove Bailey’s mother, Debra
Galban, from Salem to Eugene’s Hayward Field to watch
the meet three days in a row. Galban, who doesn’t
drive, wouldn’t have been able to see her son race
otherwise.

In the finals on the last day, Bailey won the state
title in the 100 meters in 10.65. Then he won the 200
in 21.11 – a state-meet record if not for a wind
reading over the allowable limit.

“I couldn’t stop smiling,” Bailey said of his final
race at state. When his finish time of 21.11 flashed
on the scoreboard it brought gasps from the crowd. It
was an unprecedented performance for a high school
athlete from Oregon, which doesn’t produce many
national class sprinters.

But there is something special about Bailey’s athletic
genes. One of his half-brothers, Walter Bailey, was a
star defensive back at the University of Washington
and later drafted by the Oakland Raiders.

Ten minutes after Bailey’s victory in the 200 at
state, a Benson senior named Eric Bailey – a nephew to
Ryan that he had little contact with growing up – won
the 300-meter hurdles.

At the close of the three-day state meet, Bailey
called it “the best time of my life.”

(BREAK)

Bailey has a transcript from his sophomore year that
lists his grade-point average as 0.33.

When his senior year began, Bailey had 10 of the 22
credits necessary to graduate.

“We implemented a failure is not an option plan at
McKay,” Richardson said. “Ryan was on our radar. We
made sure he did not fall through the cracks. McKay
has a high dropout rate and we’re trying to decrease
that.”

At the heart of the salvage project was social studies
teacher and track coach John Parks, who was personally
assigned to keep Bailey pointed in the right
direction.

Parks has done much more than that. He has acted as a
surrogate father for Bailey over the past year, paying
for necessities like groceries, on occasion, out of
pocket. He has redeemed frequent-flier miles to pay
for airline tickets so that he and Bailey could get to
and from post-season meets. He has hired Bailey to do
yard work at his home in Albany so that he could pay
for some things himself.

“Some people take vacations to Cancun,” Parks said.
“This is what I like to do.”

Parks has worked tirelessly to keep Bailey focused on
the steps he will need to succeed in college and in
life.

“This is his calling in life,” Richardson said of
Parks.

Parks has faced his own bumps in the road. He was
fired as McKay’s head track and cross country coach in
2006 over some liberties he took with entry marks for
the XO Invitational.

Parks said he regrets making the mistake. He was
trying, in a few instances, to help McKay athletes get
into better heats at the meet. The practice of
inflating, or projecting, superior marks for athletes
on entry lists is a more common practice at the
college level.

“It’s easy to say I wouldn’t do it again. I should
have stuck to the higher standard,” Parks said. “I
regret that it happened.”

The situation led to Parks having the time, and
energy, to devote to Bailey.

(BREAK)

Parks grew up in Alabama and was a distance runner
with modest talent when he entered Auburn University.
He wasn’t fast enough to run on the team but became
the team manager, which led naturally into coaching.
He began collecting track magazines and publishing his
own newsletters.

Parks was at Auburn the same time as Bo Jackson, who
won the Heisman Trophy and later starred in both the
NFL and professional baseball. On several road trips
with the track team, Parks roomed with Jackson.

“They put us together because we both snored,” Parks
joked.

But in getting an up-close look at Jackson and other
standout athletes at Auburn, Parks’ enthusiasm for
coaching only grew. Along the way he befriended Kelly
Sullivan, a former Auburn assistant who is currently
the head women’s cross country and track coach at
Oregon State.

“I believe John is one of the best coaches I’ve ever
met,” Sullivan said. “He knows how to coach every
event (in track and field).”

Sullivan said Parks “loves finding kids who are
diamonds in the rough.”

Parks moved on from Auburn to start the women’s track
program at Alabama-Birmingham where he coached an
Olympic heptathlete, and later coached and taught at
Birmingham’s Pelham High School, where he won state
championships. He even developed one of the first big
national cross country meets, the Vulcan Classic, in
the early 1990s – an early predecessor of today’s Nike
Team Nationals. He developed the course on a
dilapidated golf course next to an old cemetery in a
run-down part of Birmingham.

Parks was consumed by his coaching duties. In Alabama,
where just a few schools have tracks on campus, most
of the meets are held on the weekends. There were few
days off and Parks coached year-round.

The relentless time commitment led to the end of his
first marriage, Parks said.

“I was consumed with it,” Parks said. “I had so much
fun coaching but I didn’t have a balance on it. That
was the main reason we fell apart.”

Parks visited Sullivan, then coaching at Willamette
University in Salem, on a spring break trip in 1998.
In 1999, Parks decided to come to Oregon for a fresh
start.

He was hired at McKay that August and delved back in
to coaching.

He’s also taking a second shot at marriage. Parks is
due to wed fiancee’ Lisa Lipton on July 21.

Parks said he won’t make the same mistake twice.

“His mom told me that John will do anything for anyone
and all they have to do is ask,” Lipton said. “That
gets him in trouble. He is that giving.”

Lipton is attracted to that generous quality in Parks.

Sullivan has seen Parks’ tireless energy rub people
the wrong way.

“He goes 99.9 percent. He wears it on his sleeve,”
Sullivan said. “He’s so passionate. But he can also
ruffle people’s feathers.”

At McKay, there is some fracture between those that
support Parks and others who don’t.

Especially as he relates to the oft-troubled Bailey.

“There are not enough people that want to step back
and look at it from another perspective,” Parks said.
“What’s the best situation for this kid and this
scenario? I’ve caught grief for it. A lot of people
probably say stuff behind my back.”

Parks is adamant that he has Bailey’s best interests
at heart.

“He gets the benefit of the guys that came through
Auburn and the girls at UAB,” Parks said. “I know how
hard he can go and I know when he can go harder. The
advantage of not being the team coach is that I can
give him more attention.”

Bailey says Parks “is like a father to me.”

And he cemented that connection one day last winter
when Bailey’s attention was adrift and he was testing
Parks’ patience.

“Come on, Ryan! Don’t you see how much I care about
you and love you?” Parks remembers saying.

The words jolted Bailey, especially hearing the word
“love.”

(BREAK)

Since the state meet, Bailey has competed in more
track meets than he did during the regular season.

He has been to New Mexico. North Carolina. Indiana.
And Brazil. Over the weekend, he was in New York
running in the USA Club Championships, competing for
Seattle-based Club Northwest.

At every step of the way, Parks has been beside him or
in frequent cell phone contact.

The extra meets have raised Bailey’s profile and
exposed him to more college recruiters. He does not
have meet the academic eligibility requirements to
enter a four-year university and will have to start at
a junior college. He made a non-binding commitment to
Spokane Falls Community College, but is weighing some
new offers from two-year colleges in the Midwest.

Parks believes that Bailey could be just a couple of
years away from being an elite national-caliber
athlete, perhaps in the hurdles, an event he is only
beginning to learn.

Parks sees Bailey as a potential “superstar.”

Bailey, who still believes he can go faster than 21
seconds in the 200 this season, is beginning to agree.

“I definitely think I can become of the best sprinters
in the world,” Bailey said.

At the meet in North Carolina, teammates Gonzalez,
Smith and Deeric Crockett went with him and competed
in the 4×100 relay. They finished fifth in the nation
and broke Oregon’s all-time state record along the way
- in the prelims – in 41.51.

“We had a good time together,” Smith said.

In Brazil, Bailey developed a low-grade fever and did
not compete for the U.S. junior team. He said he spent
most of his time in Sao Paulo in bed, trying to sleep.

Each new experience is valuable, he said.

“It’s meant a lot,” Bailey said of his budding track
career. “I can’t really put it into words. It’s nice
to have success in something and feel like I’m doing
something with my life.”

A lot of wishful people are hoping for the best even
though there are clearly still some weighty issues
hanging over head.

His father, Robert Bailey, said Ryan needs some “tough
love” and direction. But he hasn’t been a consistent
presence in his life so far, though their relationship
seems to be improving.

His principal, Cynthia Richardson, said: “It’s
important for his (college) coach to know he’s going
to need some tight reins. Ryan’s not mature enough to
just enroll him in classes and let him go.”

Parks, who probably knows Bailey the best, said he
worries about whether he has strong enough classroom
skills to see it through.

“I don’t have any worries about him toeing the line,”
Parks said. “He’s smart. And he really wants this.”

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